EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Homemade Haunting by Rob Stennett (Zondervan).

God and Evil

I would have never followed this path all the way down to its inevitable conclusion if it weren’t for two questions.

The first: Does God exist?

And the second side of that question is: Does Satan exist?

Not that I thought about Satan very much. And as for God, early on I decided that I did not believe in him in any way, shape, or form. I wasn’t a cynic. I believed that people had the ability to do unthinkably kind, generous, and heroic acts. I just didn’t believe God had anything to do with them.

God can’t protect a family as their minivan sails through a crowded intersection, he can’t influence the outcome of a football game by commanding an angel to flap his wings to cause a field goal to slice wide right, and he certainly can’t convince a man standing on a bridge ready to take the final plunge that life was worth living after all. God couldn’t do any of these things. Not because God was a jerk — he simply wasn’t around.

I didn’t arrive at this conclusion by reading Richard Dawkins and deciding belief in God is the reason there is so much war and poverty in the world. I didn’t come to this conclusion by getting frustrated with inconsistencies between the Old and New Testaments. In fact, I wasn’t even reading much besides Charlotte’s Web back then. And it’s not like E. B. White influenced me — a spider didn’t appear and weave “God Is Dead” into its web.

But this journey did start when something uninvited came into my room. I was seven years old and it was a sunny afternoon, the type of day where I should have been outside playing baseball until dusk when supper was ready. Instead I was in my room surrounded by Legos because I wasn’t very good at baseball. “Wasn’t very good” is being kind — I was a train wreck. The first time I ever got a hit I ran to third base. Everyone was screaming “No!” but I assumed they just couldn’t believe I’d actually hit the ball. I played left field, and when the baseball came at me, I curled my arms around my face like someone had just lobbed a grenade. After a while I decided my afternoon was best spent skipping the humiliation, so I spent my time alone reenacting medieval battles with Legos. When I was in my room my parents almost never interrupted me, and if they did I knew there was a problem.

And on this day there wasn’t just one parent; both Mom and Dad were there. Dad stepped foot into the room first and said, “Charlie we need to talk.”

I broke into a cold sweat. Whenever my parents said “We need to talk” it was because I’d done something wrong. They never said “We need to talk” and then spend the next hour discussing what a great job I was doing at school or how proud they were of me. “We need to talk” meant they’d gotten an angry phone call from a teacher or a principal or one of the neighbors was upset about something I’d done. “He was peeing on my prize rosebushes, Sally,” a mom of one of the neighbor kids would say. And then she’d add, “What is wrong with your son?”

In these “We need to talk” conversations I always had a perfectly reasonable explanation. “We were playing hide-and go-seek and I really needed to go. And I thought it was good for plants. Aren’t there a lot of nutrients in pee?” Dad would say, “No son, there aren’t any nutrients in pee.*